PC Andrew Harper's teenage killers jailed

Image caption, PC Andrew Harper's wedding took place four weeks before he was killed

The killers of a police officer who was dragged to his death behind their getaway car have been jailed.

PC Andrew Harper died when he suffered catastrophic injuries as his ankles got caught in a strap attached to the car in Berkshire last August.

Driver Henry Long was jailed for 16 years for his manslaughter.

PC Harper's widow Lissie said she was in "a lost and endless world" after her husband was killed in the line of duty, a month after their wedding day.

Long's accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole received 13 years for the same offence of manslaughter.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mrs Harper said she had "screamed and cried and broken down in fractured defeat" in the wake of her husband's death.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption, Lissie Harper said she felt "broken, distraught, beaten" by her husband's death

As he sentenced them at the Old Bailey the judge, Mr Justice Edis, described the killers as "young, unintelligent but professional criminals".

Long, Bowers and Cole had been cleared of murder following a four-week trial that concluded last Friday.

Jurors heard PC Harper was dragged for more than a mile along country lanes after he and a colleague responded to reports of a quad bike theft on 15 August.

The officer became "lassoed" to the back of the killers' Seat Toledo as he tried to apprehend Cole, who had unhitched the stolen quad bike from the car.

As PC Harper chased Cole, the 28-year-old officer from Wallingford "unwittingly" stepped with both feet into the loop of a tow rope which was trailing behind the vehicle.

Image source, Thames Valley Police
Image caption, Jessie Cole, Henry Long and Albert Bowers (L-R) had been convicted of killing PC Harper at the Old Bailey

The judge told the court: "Sometimes death may be caused by an act of gross carelessness, sometimes it is very close to a case of murder in its seriousness. That is so, here."

He said the defendants' denials they did not know they were dragging anything behind the car were "clearly false" and he rejected the idea they had shown remorse.

"You killed a talented and brave young police officer who was going above and beyond his duty in order to provide a public service," he told the killers.

"You did so because you have deliberately decided to expose any police officer that got in your way to a risk of death."

'Faced hell attending court'

In her statement, Mrs Harper said she had only four weeks to call PC Harper "my husband. Four weeks to be called his wife".

"My life often feels bleak, hopeless, irreparable... I am without question a mere shadow of the person I once was, broken, distraught, beaten," she continued.

PC Harper's mother Deborah Adlam said the "family and I feel broken"

"Can you imagine a loved one dying with such indignity?" she said.

"I have sat in the mortuary of my son's covered body, too damaged for me to see."

Aimee Harper, the officer's sister, said she had "faced hell by attending court" and "heard and seen things that have left me physically sick".

At the Old Bailey

Michael Race, BBC News

Media caption, Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole were seen laughing as they left court after a previous appearance

Long, Bowers and Cole could been seen laughing and joking during parts of the trial, during most of which they appeared via video-link.

But there were no smiles on their faces in the dock of the Old Bailey as Mr Justice Edis sentenced the three teenagers, whom the judge and police said had shown no remorse for PC Harper's death.

No sentence was ever going to ease the pain felt by the officer's family and widow Lissie, who described the manslaughter verdicts as a "despicable wrong for our country" and has written to the prime minister to request a retrial.

She, in her own words, now faces her "own life sentence" without her childhood sweetheart and husband of just four weeks.

The 28-year-old's brutal killing highlights the risks officers up and down the country take every time they put on their uniform.

It is also a reminder of how crimes deemed by some as "petty" can lead to unimaginable tragedy.

These defendants may not have intended for PC Harper to be killed when they set out to steal a quad bike, but their criminality and desperation to evade arrest led to it.

During the trial prosecutors said the Abingdon-based roads policing officer was "swung from side to side like a pendulum" after Long sped off to flee the scene.

The court heard the car travelled for more than a mile towards the A4 before PC Harper became detached and died in the road.

The prosecution's case was that the defendants must have been aware the officer was being dragged behind the car and that they sought to cause him serious harm.

The three all left school long before they were 16 and had a long history of stealing.

Image source, TVP
Image caption, A fourth man, Thomas King, was sentenced to two years for conspiring to steal a quad bike

Long, from College Piece, Mortimer, Reading, pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder saying he did not know PC Harper was attached to the vehicle.

Bowers, of Moat Close, Bramley, and Cole, of Paices Hill near Reading, both admitted they were passengers, but denied ever seeing the police officer.

Thomas King, 22, who was not in the car, previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal a quad bike and was sentenced to two years.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said anyone who kills a police officer should spend the rest of their life in prison.

He added: "If the law won't allow that in these circumstances then the law must be changed. PC Andrew Harper was killed on duty in the most brutal and horrific way; his wife, family, colleagues and the public deserve justice. This is not justice."

John Howell, who was PC Harper's MP, said he will ask the Attorney General whether the sentences are "unduly lenient" and, if so, whether they could be extended at the Court of Appeal.

The MP for Henley said: "The sentences handed down today by the judge are very severe. The question is does the punishment fit the crime?"

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